Telemedicine: A Public Policy Review and Solutions for Underserved Communities

The use of telemedicine in healthcare in the United States is not a new concept, but it is something that is being taken advantage of as technology advances. Telemedicine aims to provide coverage from anywhere to patients and reduce the costs of healthcare to those living in underserved communities across the United States. Although access to telemedicine benefits is increasingly growing, the research of how costs and delivery impact underserved areas is at a minimum. For every 100,000 patients in an underserved community in the U.S., there are 40 subspecialists to treat them. Many communities lack access to providers, and many providers lack the resources needed to be able to provide care to patients via telemedicine. The purpose of this qualitative research is to review the literature and policies needed to examine how the continuing expansion of telemedicine increases the reach of healthcare in underserved communities. A multitude of legislations have been proposed or put into place such as the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and more recently, the Cares Act to aid the expansion of telemedicine. This present review of literature critically examines the challenges that both patients and providers face when using telemedicine such as cost, reimbursement for patients and payment for providers. It also assesses the benefits of telemedicine, such as cost reduction and privacy and security in present legislations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The way in which providers interact with their patients is changing due to the evolution of telemedicine, and most challenges presented show that further research is needed to show what legislation needs to be passed to support the expansion of telemedicine in underserved communities.